Winners and Losers

“Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser.” The Gambler lyrics


We spend a lot of time trying to win and avoid losing. It’s life’s obsession, this game of winning or losing. And we come by it naturally.

We won the moment we drew our first breath, and we’ll keep on winning until the moment it leaves us. It keeps recycling.

It begs question, how many breaths are we allotted anyway? Maybe we may need to pace ourselves, cut back on those hot, torrid vacation romances. No? Ok, give up jogging, that’ll balance it out in this summer heat.

We love games and play a lot of them with ourselves and quite a few with others. Don’t deny it, we hatch plans and schemes from the moment we get up. Some win, some lose. We pretend a lot.

We play silly games with our brain. It’s a mortal conflict, a struggle between decision or indecision. To choose is one of the hardest games we ever play.

Which wins? Depends on the day, the moment, the emotion, because like it or not, brain and body both have to play the hand that’s dealt. It’s the Will versus the Flesh, mind over matter, or the matter over mind. You’re hungry, so you fight the urge. The body wins, the mind loses.

You look at yourself one day, don’t like what you see. The get-in-shape game is now in play. You fist-pump, swear to yourself to shape up. You spend money, buy new running shoes, bright colored ones, some garish-green shorts and hit the road. Decision has made Will a temporary winner. But wait, the game is just beginning.

You’re feeling good, your will is winning. But the body doesn’t like the hand it has been dealt. It rebels at the first hill you approach. Sweat’s pouring from your glands, the contest begins to change. Second-guessing enters the fray and begins to question the wisdom of this game you’re playing. Defeat waits on the hilltop.

Suddenly the moment changes, the game’s momentum shifts. Just minutes ago, the will was winning, now the conflict between will and body gets bloody real. Which has the guts to continue the fight?

Your lungs heave, your breath comes hard. You see it clearly, mano a mano, less a game than a war. And there’s no such thing as a split decision. It’s a zero-sum game, a winner or a loser. Which will it be?

This little metaphoric example can apply to multitudes of contests we choose on a regular basis. Maybe golf, tennis, bridge, checkers, horseshoes, stock speculation, politics, you name it. There are winners and losers.

Games like life have rules. Some are based on tradition or written, others formulated as the occasion demands. But there must be an objective standard to determine the winners from the losers.

Score keepers and referees are needed. Can they be trusted? Dissent enters the scrimmage, followed by blame, ending in accusations. Ah, there’s the rub.

There are plenty of sore losers out there. They blame the rules and score keepers. Concession is not in their vocabulary. Winning is everything, hook or crook. Their ballot-box hokum, voter suppression hogwash and perpetual money-printing promises won’t change the outcome any more than your new shoes will allow you to finish the run.

(I just had to say that. It’s too bad scores can’t be as clear and convincing as the Bulldogs 49 to 3 over the Ducks.)

We’ve been both winners and losers for a long time. But don’t bring up the score card of failed romances. It skews the win/lose model. No clear winners there, only degrees of losers. Some blame luck, good or bad, but what’s luck anyway? It’s simply the cards we were dealt, a message from the Fates to tempt and tease us while playing the hands best we can.

We ask, “Will our winning luck finally run out?” A sober thought. Call it what you will, but Life is a gamble with incredible odds; if it were a bet, who’d take it?


Longfellow penned his thoughts on winners and losers:


     When I compare

     What I have lost with what I have gained

     Little room do I find for pride.


     But who shall dare

     To measure loss and gain in this wise?

     Defeat may be victory in disguise.

     The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”


Defy the odds, keep playing the game.



Bud Hearn

September 5, 2022